The other day I had a health screening for my insurance at work. They check basic things and “grade” you based on national guidelines for weight (BMI, body fat %), cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
It didn’t go great for me — beginning with the weigh-in. I’ll never hit my BMI, which isn’t a fair measurement anyway. According to my BMI, I’m obese, which I’ve gotten used to seeing. I also didn’t hit my body fat %, which was disappointing, but I don’t normally think much of it. But on that day, the nurse practitioner apologized a lot to me when I didn’t hit the numbers I was supposed to. “I’m so sorry…I’m just…I’m so sorry.” Why was she sorry? I wasn’t dying, and to be honest, those measurements are a poor snapshot look into my overall health.
After that nonsense — plus a finger prick to get blood — my blood pressure was in the “pre-hypertension” range.
My bloodwork came back okay, but not incredible.
The advice I was given was to eat more vegetables and exercise more.
As I went back to my desk, the voice of that nurse practitioner saying “I’m sorry… I’m just so sorry” played on a loop in my mind.
Have I failed at being healthy?
Even though I’m vegan and an ultrarunner, I still need to be given the advice of eat more vegetables and exercise more. What have I done wrong?
As I sit here writing this, I’ve lost 72 pounds from my heaviest weight. I’ve run more than a thousand miles this year, and I’ve run well over a thousand each year for the last several years. I’ve completed 10 ultramarathons, including two mountain adventures.
But everything I’ve done and accomplished — things I could not have imagined doing only a few years ago — some days they count for nothing. Nothing.
Every pound I gain weighs on my mind like 100 pounds. But rather than every lost pound feeling like a victory, that psychological weight sticks around and may never go away.
That one pound lost is like a small stone tossed at the giant wall of work yet to be done.
When those pounds become noticeable — whether it’s a notch on my belt or a strained button on my shirt — body dysmorphia causes me to imagine myself looking like those numbers at the clinic tell me I look: obese. An “I’m so sorry…” level of obese.
With these thoughts and feelings dragging me down, I headed to a company meeting. I sat down and looked around the room to say hello to people I know. I caught the eye of a friend, Angie, who was sitting a few rows back and over from me. I waved at her, and she pantomimed that I was looking thin and fit. She said I looked really great.
I’m not very good at accepting compliments for some reason, so I sheepishly smiled and said thanks, and then the meeting started.
As I sat, though, I realized how meaningful it was for Angie to say that, and what it actually meant. It meant the world. It was a lifeline that pulled me out of the pit I was sinking into.
After the meeting was over, I thanked Angie properly. I told her how much it meant for her to say such kind things — and that I had been feeling down about the way I looked and felt, and what she said really helped me out. We talked a little about what I’m doing to stay fit.
What does this all mean?
All of this happened in the morning. My health screening was at 7:30am, and the company meeting was at 9:00am. I thought about everything all day trying to sort out everything I felt. It was a meaningful day, and I think there are three takeaways:
1. Be kind to each other.
Compliment your friends and coworkers. Be genuine about it. It could change their day in ways you couldn’t have planned for.
2. Accept compliments, even if you don’t believe them.
I don’t mean receive a compliment, like I did at first. Accepting it, especially when you may not even believe it, will have a great effect.
You deserve to be complimented. You deserve to feel so great about yourself.
3. You are not — and never, ever will be — a loser.
And I say this while coming off of feeling like a pretty big loser myself.
But it’s true, no matter what rebuttal you have. You are not a loser.
You gain weight. You lose weight. You work hard. You try your best to be your best. Every bit of that means you are a strong, beautiful, person. Perhaps the most winningest of them all.
You’re the best. Own it.